Alfa Romeo Parts
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Alfa Romeo has always been an Italian brand, but its origins can be traced back to the French. French entrepreneur Alexandre Darracq formed Automobiles Darracq S.A. in 1896 to build electric cars. By 1900, production switched over to the internal combustion engine. Darracq was looking for prospective markets, so in 1906 he teamed up with a few investors to establish the Societa Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID). After a series of unsuccessful ventures, Darracq, not being much of an automotive enthusiast himself, planned to close the factory by 1910 to focus on other pursuits. Cav Ugo Stella, one of the original investors in SAID who was also the assembly plant manager, gathered a group of investors to purchase the plant before its sale. Part of the reason why Darracq's cars had been so unsuccessful was that they had not been built to endure Italy's rough terrain, and Stella wanted to change that.
The new vision lead to a new company, this one named Societa Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (ALFA), translated as the Lombardy Car Manufacturing Company. The logo combined the flag of Milan and the Visconti family crest to pay homage to the company's hometown. Its first car, the 24 HP, had a four liter, four-cylinder engine capable of 24 horsepower. Taking the needs of its customers into account, ALFA was profitable for the brief years before World War I.
In 1915, Industrialist Nicola Romeo purchased the company, along with a few other businesses in the area, to contribute to the war effort. Many were concerned how the company would pan out post-war, but luckily it had been Romeo's dream to make a premier sports car. By 1918, the company's name officially changed to Societa Anonima Italiana Ing. Nicola Romeo & Company, but most referred to it as Alfa Romeo. This is probably because the logo, which used to read Alfa Milano, now read Alfa Romeo. Since Italy was busy fighting in WWI, no new models came out until 1920.
The Racing Years
The first model to succeed the 24 HP was the 20-30 HP. A year later the sporty 20-30 ES came out, as well as the G1. Racing was another of Alfa Romeo's pursuits, and the racing team included some big names, including future Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari. Their first victory came in 1920 at the Circuit of Mugello with Giuseppe Campari behind the wheel. This interest in racing lead to a few remarkable designs for their time, one of which was the supercharged P2. It took gold in its first ever race and eventually went on to win the Grand Prix at Lyons, France.
Success on the track translated to success in the market. The RL, which had been introduced for the 1922 model year, was fairly successful as Alfa's first post-war sports model. Its predecessor, the 6C 1500 - based on the P2 - had a 1487 cubic centimeter engine with 44 horsepower. Its designer, Vittorio Jano, asked car body designer Ugo Zagato to create a light body. It was successful enough, and a few versions arrived the following year: Sport and Super Sport, along with supercharged versions called Super Sport Compressore and Super Sport Testa Fissa. The base or "Normale" model had a single overhead camshaft while the rest had two. Horsepower increased considerably-ranging from 54 to 60, 76, and 84, respectively. Few of the last Super Sports were made, most being modified, and so, are extremely rare today. Regardless, the Sport versions did just fine and recorded several wins, like the Mille Miglia, Boulogne, and Irish Grand Prix to name a few.
Despite all of this, sales waned and Nicola Romeo retired in 1928, facing near liquidation. He passed responsibility over to the board. Racing successes continued, and with the privatization of the racing team, now run and by Enzo Ferrari, it changed its name to Scuderia Ferrari in 1929. The name would eventually switch to Alfa Corse in 1938. Ferrari would eventually go his own separate way and reestablish the team in '39.
Before that, the team had much more racing success in the ‘30s with the release of the 8C 2300 in 1931. It had a 2336cc engine that went on to be just as successful. One of its greatest feats was winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans race every year from 1931-34. 188 models were eventually made for public roads. Many of Alfa's higher trim road cars were simply chassis loaned to coach and carriage makers, like Zagato, something they would continue to practice for many decades. The name changed to Societe Anonomie Alfa Romeo, and, in order to stay afloat, the company received a Government grant, but this later changed to full ownership by 1933 by the IRI, the Italian Government's institute for industrial reconstruction. Mussolini urged for racing in the name of Italy, and so the wins continued.
From 1932-1935 the P3, sporting an eight-cylinder supercharged engine, won over 40 races. 1937 brought the 158 "Alfetta," named after its 1.5L 8 cylinder engine. It placed first in its first race for the Alfa Corse team at the Coppa Ciano Junior. It later achieved international fame, winning 87% of the Grand Prix races it entered. Ferrari left the company a year later after a fall out with then-designer Wilfredo Ricart and agreed to abstain from using his name in racing and designing for four years, but that hardly mattered as World War II would be in full force not long after.
The Style Years
After WWII, Alfa Romeo's production facilities were nearly destroyed. This did not stop the racing success, though, now being largely led by the 158. Off the track, Alfa Romeo continued to produce its 6C models, and in 1950 released an all-new model, the 1900. Its appearance exuded class and could be had as a coupe or sedan with a 1,844cc four-cylinder engine rated at 80 horsepower. To many, it could serve as a family car with performance, as many could afford to upgrade to the Super and Sprint models. It was also the the first left-hand drive offering from Romeo.
For 1954, the compact Giulietta, gilded in chrome, became a second family offering. Throughout its life most drivers opted for the Berlina saloon, but buyers could opt for the Sprint coupe or the Spider roadster/convertible, and even higher performance variants, like the Sprint Zagato.
With the ‘60s came new designs and a brand new factory in Arese to keep up with demand. The Giula, a sports sedan, came out for 1962. It ran on a 1,290 cc engine with an output of 77 horsepower or a 1,570cc engine with 91 horsepower. At first glance, the Tipo 105.14 Giula looked like a bland sedan, but one could notice the detail and curves upon a second look. Looks can be deceiving and the Giula became known for its lightweight but powerful engine. Spider and Sprint models were exceptional upgrades, but what really stood out was the Giulia Sprint Speciale. The Giulia SS replaced the Giulietta SS as one of Alfa Romeo's premier cars.
By the ‘70s, Alfa Romeo was at the height of its production, pumping out 100,000-150,000 per year. Unfortunately, quite a few losses fell on the company in this decade. Arguably, the biggest loss was the death of longtime designer and eventual Vice President Orazio Satta Puliga - who had been responsible for many models since WWII. Still, with a new decade came a new model. For a series of years the Montreal took the forefront, but, ironically, emission regulations kept it out of North America. It still sported a decent engine with a V8 with an output at 197 horsepower and a top speed of over 130 mph, and, looking back now, its design looks like a pair of shutter shades hover the headlights. Sadly, the ‘70s were a tough decade as many American companies went global, and the rise of luxury brands like Ferrari brought more competition - the lack of models overseas didn't help.
The GTV6, first dropped in 1979, rang in the ‘80s for Alfa Romeo when it won the 1982 and 1983 European Touring Car Championships. Its success can be attributed to its 1.8 and 2L V6 with 160 horsepower. Unfortunately it was less successful in showrooms than on the race track. All it really did was help keep Alfa Romeo from liquidation, so the IRI put it up for sale, eventually selling to Fiat for 1.75 billion US dollars.
The plan for the ‘90s was to establish Alfa Romeo's presence in North America, so Fiat and Alfa Romeo teamed up with the behemoth Chrysler to establish Alfa Romeo Distributers of North America not long after Fiat's acquisition. Italian plants were improved but the US endeavor proved to be nearly fatal for the company. Push back and unreliability plagued many of their cars, making the 164 the last sold in US markets, and leaving buyers with the outdated Spider and subpar Milano. The partnership dissolved in 1991.
Fiat hoped to push the 155 into the US, but the model did not fare as well as the company had hoped in Europe. A new Spider and the 145 (a compact family sedan) weren't too stellar either, but the 156 and later the 166 made up for that. Released for their 90th anniversary, the 166 helped restore Alfa Romeo into high class with its executive car, but the brand didn't stray far from its roots. While the ‘90s had the GTV, the new millennium brought a few interesting designs - such as the Brera (sporting a Maserati V8 producing 390 hp in its concept version) and its convertible Spider - Fiat hoped to return Alfa Romeo to the US market, but its own financial problems stalled any advancement.
However, after the merger of Chrysler and Fiat in 2014, Alfa Romeo has finally returned to the US. It has even resorted to old names with the remarkably unique RWD 4C Coupe and its Spider variation. Its 4-cylinder turbocharged 1.75L engine, producing around 240 horsepower, is capable of reaching a top speed of 160 mph. Even a Giulia is slated to return for 2017. So, while Alfa has had its ups and downs, it might finally be here to stay in the US.
Need Alfa Romeo Parts?
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Look no further than 1A Auto for your aftermarket, original equipment (OE) replacement, new and performance Alfa Romeo auto parts and get your car the new parts it needs today, at a great discount, from car enthusiasts just like you! If you happen to be an enthusiastic Alfa Romeo owner, have a deep passion for Alfa Romeo vehicles, or just want to learn more about the automobile manufacturer, continue reading below for a detailed look at the brand's history and some of its past and present models.